This week we were the host venue for the annual SCHOMS conference.
SCHOMS is the professional association for the support services for education technology. The annual conference provides an opportunity for those rare and likeminded Heads and senior staff to meet and discuss any and everything related to providing technology in support of teaching.
The events this year started with an evening social gathering on the Monday night for those travelling from some distance. It allowed for introductions and buddying up of the new with the old members. We were lucky to have several new members attend, including from the Universities of Malta and from Western Australia. The evening coincided with the England - Iceland football international; which unfortunately for some led to a more sombre evening!
It was a delight to welcome everyone to the University in Bath.
The conference proper started on the Tuesday morning, with a welcome from the current Chair, Paul Wood, from the University of Bangor in North Wales.
The opening address was given by the University of Bath's Vice Principal, Steve Egan. It held an empassioned thought on the processes in the recent Brexit vote, and the effects it may have for Universities, and a guided tour through what the University of Bath is, and the different way that we operate - our uniqueness. It was a great opening to conference.
It was great to see that our LITEbox project got a great mention and support.
All told there were 67 delegates from all across the UK, and guests from across the globe.
The next session held the audience attention well - Shane Cryer from Ecophon presented a session on the slightly dry topic of room acoustics.
The session included a sort of 'hearing test' for the delegates to see if they could hear specific frequency tones. Sufficed to say that not everyone in the audience could! However, there were some more startling effects to be measured through some recent research:
There were some stark advice that I could take from the sessions:
BB93 (Building Bulletin - from the Dept for Education) suggests that the target reverberation rating should be a maximum of 0.8. Where there are students with qualifications under Equality Act, then we should aim for under 0.4.
In practice, it would seem that most teaching rooms really will struggle to comply with these measurements. The good news is that we already have options to measure this effect in rooms - and we will go through a process this year of measuring the performance of our rooms.
The next session of the morning was the formal launch of the SCHOMS / UCISA / AUDE joint report entitled 'Learning Space Toolkit'. Many of us in the sector have had some input into this report. It will give the reader a good start on how to look at their learning spaces, and then start to manage them going into the future.
It's by no means the right way to do it, and it will not suit some, but it is a good foundation to work with.
After the business of the AGM, the day moved on to quick look at some facilities on campus.
Through the course of the tour, we were treated to a guided look at the facilities by members of the AV Unit. In University Hall, there was also a live demostration of a great product developed by Robin Sheilds, from the School of Management, called 2sli.de.
It allows the presenter to:
- Interact with the audience through polls and discussion questions
- Enables the user to annotate slides and move objects on the slide using a smartphone or tablet whilst the user is presenting
It can be considered as a presenter's way of trying to do presentations, but improving the interactivity as the session develops....More information is available here:
We would encourage everyone to look at the great solution - it's free!
After lunch, the afternoon session was provided by us at Bath.
It started off with Amanda Wylie - Staff Development Manager at the University - with a session about understanding how the support staff will relate to the users of the service.
We did this by looking at the 4 colour energies of personalities, and how you can use them to keep someone's attention. It was a very useful session! It's surprising how many people you can fit into these categories.
As part of this session, some of the delegates were asked to make the shape of a rabbit whilst blindfolded and under time pressure. The results were 'interesting'.
However it was a thought-provoking session about how you deal with personal situations.
The final session of the day was provided by Dr. John Troyer, from the University's Faculty of Health.
For a group of people, John has an interesting look on 'What is Technology?'.Given a background in University support services himself, the ideas are slightly left-field. It was a timely remider that technology may become ubiquitous and we might not think about them as technology any more. Devices such as pens, compound lenses in glasses and even books - not just even electronic ones.
However, the finest thought for us to really consider is not the use of technology, but the lifespan of technology. How we plan for the lifespan of a piece of technology, from selection to eventual obsolescence is more important than anything else. Does the statement of 'forever' really mean forever for data, or the use of files, or the lifespan of the physical equipment? This could lead to the perpetuation of fads in education - whereas we might like to think about the systemic entirety rather than popularity of use.